Welcome back to Pursuing Progress. I want to start this week with a short story.
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In a society that preaches relentless progress, we often lack the strength to stop. That’s where the bells of intentional rest chimes in.
It was my sophomore year of college. Our soccer team was midway through our season as we began conference play. After a 4-3 start in our first 7 games, we were in desperate need of a win to continue our positive momentum. However, just like Voldemort in Harry Potter, we had an enemy to defeat: the Emory Eagles, #6 team in the country.
With a 5 day gap from our previous game, we prepared meticulously — watching game film, practicing tactical patterns, and solidifying our roles. We were locked in. We had prepared. It was now up to us to execute.
The starting 11 walked on the field, face-to-face with one of the best teams in the nation. The sun shined brightly, and as I looked up in the stands, the blue sky presented a calm backdrop.
SHRIEK! The referee blew his whistle, signaling the start of the game.
As a midfielder, I had to assert my presence early on. My coach’s words rang in my head, “he who controls the middle of the park, controls the game.” Emory had a strong start, but I was determined to win my battles — sliding into challenges, battling for second balls, and going up for headers — anything to help my team gain a slight edge.
After 20 minutes, both teams are scoreless. Emory charges down the right side of the field, opening us up for the first goal.
Completely gassed in midfield, I jog back to the top of the box as my teammates crowd the Eagle attackers. Their right-attacker cut inside, ripping a shot from inside the box.
A last-ditch block by our defender falls kindly to me, as my touch lets me down and pops the ball in the air. Out of the corner of my eye, I see an Emory midfielder rushing in to repossess the ball. In front of me, is my forward, screaming for the rock. As the ball comes down in slow motion, I begin my ascent to head the ball. Simultaneously, the Emory midfielder puts his body in front of me, and then…
Concussion #1 of my life. I didn’t blackout. But I was wobbly as I walked off the field. I didn’t want to believe that, though, so I told the trainers I’m good to go.
“Not so fast, Sean”, said the head trainer. He proceeded to do some tests on me. All I thought about was getting back on the field.
He completed his tests, talked to my coach, and then slowly walked towards me. Letting out a sigh, he proceeded, “You’re done for today, sorry man.”
I was furious. I could play. I can take another tackle. I can go for another header. But I had to come to terms with their decision. I couldn’t help my team on the pitch. I had to embrace my new role for this game, and help out the boys from the sidelines.
As the final whistle blew, we came out victorious, 2-1, in one of the biggest upsets of my career.
But my road to recovery was just beginning.
If I were to get back as quickly as possible, I had to force myself to stop any activity for a week. This is where I learned the value of intentional rest.
Intentional rest meant: Staying away from light, keeping my head still, no physical activity, and lots of sleep. With school, soccer, and extracurricular activities, it was impossible to participate and rest at the same time. But that was the whole point — to NOT participate — to actively do nothing.
That week changed my outlook on rest forever.
I spent less time on my phone and laptop. I chose not to exercise. And I went to bed much earlier than usual. My initial frame was, “I’m not progressing. I’ve stopped. I need to keep moving.” However, as the week continued, my frame shifted to, “If I am to get back on the field and help my team, I need to be 100% recovered. Then I can progress.”
This shift in frame was crucial. We often get lost in the perpetual motion of activity that we minimize the effect of intentional rest. Completely checking out from the work allows us to restart with full force. I had to learn this the hard way — but it’s one that’ll resonate with me forever.
If you find yourself overwhelmed in your life, pinpoint the areas causing you stress. Ask yourself: Do you need to be there every moment of every day? Is there a day to put your work down and rest? Find those pain points. Take your day’s rest. And come back tomorrow, stronger.
All the best,
To Pursuing Progress.
1. Performative Speaking
The PS team just completed Week 1 of Performative Speaking Online School. We have an incredible group of hard-working, vulnerable, and supportive individuals who are blowing me away. If you’re interested in becoming a better speaker AND surrounding yourself with an exceptional team, sign up for Cohort 2’s waitlist (we can chat!).
Look at the love! Don’t miss out on Cohort 2.
2. “Most of the things we need to be fully alive never come in busyness. They grow in rest.” - Mark Buchanan
As I talked about in the story above, the ventures we strive for often require periods of solitude. These periods of rest provide a headspace to reassess your goals and realign your purpose to what you truly desire.
When writers experience writer’s block, they often go on long walks or travel to a new place. This change of pace allows for the mind to reset. And when you return to your desk, you’ll be flooded with ideas to progress even further.
In case you missed it:
That’s all for this week’s Pursuing Progress.
Thanks for spending your time and attention this Sunday with me. I appreciate you very much.
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Till next Sunday, folks.